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Tuesday Primaries: Eric Cantor, Lindsey Graham Face Tepid Opposition

Cantor, the House Majority Leader, is on the primary ballot Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Cantor, the House Majority Leader, is on the primary ballot Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Lindsey Graham — two of  the most recognizable names in Congress — face primary challenges Tuesday from their right flank.  

“I feel good,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said in a brief interview Thursday at the Capitol. “[We’re] running like we’re behind and got a lot of energy. Just got to run through the tape.”  

Both Cantor and Graham are poised to defeat their party foes, but their margins will reveal insight into their political positions in their respective states.  

In all likelihood, Cantor will defeat college professor David Brat in the GOP primary for Virginia’s 7th District. But if Brat gets within 10 points of Cantor, GOP operatives said it will be his “punishment” for meddling in local politics, including a few races for district party chairs.

“It’s been noisy, but a lot of time noise doesn’t translate to votes,” one GOP operative said of the anti-Cantor wing.  

In the Palmetto State, Graham started the cycle as a top target for conservatives, thanks to his support for immigration overhaul and other bipartisan initiatives. But no competitive primary challenger emerged , and Graham will undoubtedly be the top vote recipient in the Republican primary.  

Graham needs more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff with one of the handful of his lesser-known opponents. A Clemson University poll out last week showed the two-term senator with 49 percent.  

Graham added, “I feel very good about my chances of breaking 50” percent.  

There are two other House primaries worth watching Tuesday night.  

In Maine’s open 2nd District, state Sen. Emily Cain is expected to breeze by state Sen. Troy Jackson to earn the Democratic nomination. This is a race to replace Rep. Michael H. Michaud, who is running for governor in the Pine Tree State.  

But the Republican primary in the 2nd District is a “coin-flip,” according to operatives from both sides of the aisle. The result will determine how competitive Republicans can be in their attempt to pick up this district, which President Barack Obama carried by a 9-point margin in 2012.  

Former state Sen. Kevin Raye released a poll last year showing him with a large lead over former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. But Poliquin has since spent nearly $400,000 on his bid. There’s been no recent polling released from either GOP campaign — a sign the race has tightened, operatives said.  

Democrats, including Cain, said they prefer to take on Poliquin .  

Back in Virginia’s 8th District, a crowded field of Democrats is vying for the chance to succeed retiring Rep. James P. Moran in his Arlington-based district.  

The race started with nearly a dozen Democratic hopefuls, but several dropped out of the race citing no path to victory .  

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer is expected to handily defeat the six other Democrats still running in the contest.  

Even in a crowded field, Beyer could run away with the race, thanks to his huge financial advantage and high level of familiarity with voters because of his successful chain of car dealerships in the district that bear the Beyer name.  

Obama carried the 8th District with 68 percent in 2012, making the Democratic primary tantamount to the general election.  

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.